Marion Drummond, who helped make the LSU Hilltop Arboretum an outdoor classroom for gardeners and children, died Saturday on her 83rd birthday, said her daughter, Laurie Lynn Drummond.
Other survivors include sons Finlay Drummond, Carter Drummond and two grandchildren. There will be an informal gathering from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 7 in Drummond’s garden at the Drummond residence, 9355 Mollylea Drive.
Recently divorced, Drummond began work on a degree in landscape architecture at LSU in her early 60’s. She became Hilltop’s first site director in 1992 at the age of 62.
In 2002, at the age of 72, Drummond was hired as the executive director of the Mobile Botanical Gardens where she worked until four years ago.
“ ‘You deal with the green, as in money, and I’ll do the green, as in plants,’ she told me,” said Janet Forbes, the arboretum’s first director. “She said the site director’s job was the first real job she ever had,” Forbes said.
“She really considered her job to be mother,” said Laurie Lynn Drummond. “Her life’s work were her children and plants.”
Hilltop Arboretum occupies the site of a farm on Highland Road south of Bluebonnet Boulevard where Emory and Annette Smith lived with their two daughters. A native plants nursery begun by Smith, as well as a collection of native species on the 14-acre farm, became an arboretum open to the public after the Smith family donated the place to LSU in 1981.
“Marion wanted to promote awareness of Hilltop,” Forbes said. “She preserved the plant collection and the ravines, the things that made Hilltop Arboretum.”
Drummond oversaw the planting of a second generation of trees, started the annual speakers’ symposium and Saturday workshops.
She worked as a volunteer at the arboretum before becoming one of Hilltop’s first employees.
“She had a network of growers that helped establish the annual fall plant sale,” Forbes said.
Now in its 30th year, the plant sale signals fall in Baton Rouge for many gardeners.
“One of her signature talents,” Forbes said, “was gathering people and using her wiles to persuade them to take on tasks they never knew they could or wanted to do.”
The California native acclimated to Baton Rouge monsoons and wasn’t shy about taking an unreliable LSU truck into rush hour interstate traffic to gather plants for sales, Forbes said.
Drummond received the Southern Garden History Society’s certificate of merit and the Louisiana chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects’ Dr. Robert S. Reich Service to the Profession award this year. She was a YWCA “Woman of Achievement” winner. The award presenter referred to Drummond as a “late bloomer.”
Drummond was instrumental in starting Master Gardeners with LSU AgCenter horticulturist Bob Souvestre, worked with Project Wildflower, served as president of the Louisiana Native Plant Society, volunteered at the Battered Women’s Shelter, was a knowledgeable herb grower and loved to cook.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Marion’s Greenhouse Project at Hilltop Arboretum.